Why Ava DuVernay Passed On Marvel's Black Panther

It looks like we’re going to have to wait a while longer before we see either a woman or a person of color direct one of Marvel’s superhero movies. Selma director Ava DuVernay, who was the rumored frontrunner for the job on the upcoming Black Panther, has passed on the chance to helm a comic book movie.

Talking to Essence, DuVernay did confirm that she met with Marvel about leading the big screen adaptation of the exploits of the hero king of the fictional African nation Wakanda, but decided not to take the gig. After using the Fourth of July to "declare her independence" from this rumor, she said:

I'm not signing on to direct Black Panther. I think I’ll just say we had different ideas about what the story would be. Marvel has a certain way of doing things and I think they’re fantastic and a lot of people love what they do. I loved that they reached out to me.

It sounds like the discussions got fairly far along. DuVernay didn’t just meet with Marvel brass, she actually sat down with the writers to explore the possibility, and even went so far as to meet Chadwick Boseman (Get on Up, 42), who is set to lead Black Panther. DuVernay continued:

In the end, it comes down to story and perspective. And we just didn't see eye to eye. Better for me to realize that now than cite creative differences later.

Though she could have made a really cool Black Panther, it’s hard to fault her logic in this situation. Studios and filmmakers clash and split all of the time over the ubiquitous "creative differences." If you know right out of the gate that you are likely to wind up in that situation, perhaps it is better for everyone involved to nip it in the bud before it even has time to get out of hand and for bad feelings to develop. Marvel is pretty set in their ways, and DuVernay is not one known for compromising her vision, maybe it was just a bad idea.

We don’t know exactly how it will play out in the movies, but Black Panther follows T’Challa (Boseman), the King of Wakanda, a technologically advanced nation in Africa which also happens to have the bulk of the world’s supply of vibranium, the metal Captain America’s shield is made from. With a kind of isolationist stance, Wakanda has largely existed in its own little world to a degree, but it doesn’t look like that is going to last much longer in the MCU. They’re going to have to come out and play with the rest of the world.

Before Black Panther gets his own solo movie, which is still a long way off, not scheduled to open until July 2018, the character will make his big screen debut next year in the superhero-laden Captain America: Civil War. What little we know about his role in that film is that he’ll provide a kind of outsider perspective on the rift that develops between Tony Stark and Steve Rodgers, and he may be hunting the Winter Soldier.

So Black Panther is once again looking for a director. And while it won’t be Ava DuVernay, it doesn't sound like there are any hard feeling either way. Shes says she loves the character and story, and that she will "be first in line to see it."

Brent McKnight